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It was one of the thousands of plays of that will receive coveted SportsCenter Top 10 honors this year: a magnificent, power dunk down the lane from a 6-foot, 1-inch, Erie, Pa., high school point guard that landed David Morris and his Strong Vincent High School team at No. 5 on the Jan. 26, 11 p.m. ET #SCTop10.
But it was a voice message from a local parent and freelance videographer – whose own son had been featured on E:60 just a year ago – that reminded even the most hardened news souls in the ESPN newsroom of the impact that sports and by extension, SportsCenter, can have on a young man and, come to find out, an entire community.
The message was left for assignment desk editor Sam De La Cruz and came from Mike Gallagher:
“Real quick, I know you probably don’t think it’s a huge deal what you did for a kid in our community the other night. Just to tell you, he’s in a school district where they’re in the middle of the worst part of town – in the middle of a gang war. They have teammates who have been shot – they have a coach’s house that’s been shot at.
“But this kid has a chance. And since you got him in the Top 10 he’s had [over a dozen] Division I coaches looking at him including Xavier, Pitt and Cincinnati and this community is still fired up because of what you guys did. Their practice [the day after the game], they had to close the doors because of all the neighborhood kids coming in just to watch David Morris.
“I had to share [this] with you because I know you work every day and I know how the high-end athletes could care less what you and I do. . . you should feel pretty special for what you did for a kid.”
“It’s cool how one play could unite a city,” said Strong Vincent’s assistant coach – and Morris’s godfather – Cory Coleman. “The sense of community that came about after people saw that on SportsCenter is just incredible. It’s been a big help and has had such a positive impact here. It’s amazing what a nine or 10-second clip can do. That’s the power of media and the power of SportsCenter.”
None of that is lost on the SportsCenter team.
“We’re – appropriately – obsessed with serving sports fans,” said Senior Vice President, SportsCenter and News Rob King. “But in our tireless effort to be engaging and creative and fun, we sometimes forget that we do more than just serve fans. . . We touch fans. The voicemail that came in last week is a wonderful reminder of that critical portion of our mission statement. We should be proud of — and grateful for — our ability to have this sort of impact on our audience.”